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At the end of March, on the first day of spring, my boyfriend of seven years proposed to me. I knew it coming. We had talked about it occasionally over the last few years; I’d seen the ring that he had picked out (it’s far easier, albeit perhaps less romantic to actually know your girlfriend’s ring size before you get down on one knee). Over the last couple of years we had even discussed whether I wanted a ring at all, or whether (unbearably cynical little kill-joy of a woman that I am) I found the whole concept a little too cringey. Even now, I sometimes question the decision- if I hear one more person ask for a ‘picture of the ring’, I feel as if I might scream ‘NO’ at them and stomp off like a child having a tantrum.
Over the last couple of years we had even discussed whether I wanted a ring at all.
You must be starting to hate me right now, but in the end we chose a very simple cubic zirconium ring. Which, for those of you who don’t know, is a synthetically manufactured gem stone commonly used in the place of a diamond- not only is this alternative cheaper, but it doesn’t bolster the diamond industry. Instead of potentially losing an arm in conflict over these gems in an impoverished African country, the scientists who produce cubic zirconium (such as the one found on my engagement ring) have decent wages, human rights, and health insurance. Despite all of this, amongst brides-to-be on forums like weddingbee and UKBride, there seems to be a kind of innate snobbery towards anything that isn’t a ‘real’ diamond, as if the price of a rock equates somehow to love and loyalty.
The scientists who produce cubic zirconium (such as the one found on my engagement ring) have decent wages, human rights, and health insurance.
Engagement rings, as it turns out, aren’t even as ‘traditional’ as most of us have come to believe. Emerging prominently in the late 1930s, they are a product of arguably one of the most successful ad campaigns of the 20th century which effectively convinced us that NOT spending a hideous amount of money on a piece of jewellery makes a man a stingy bastard. Personally, I’d rather marry the man who doesn’t spend two months’ salary on a piece of metal with a rock on it, but that’s just me.
It is as if the price of a rock equates somehow to love and loyalty.
As I mentioned in my first paragraph, having an engagement ring myself, I am not wholeheartedly opposed to them, they are just another piece of jewellery. But, especially in today’s cash strapped and increasingly exploitative society, it’s important to take two things into consideration: cost, and ethics. In a recently mocked Economist article, a journalist asked one of the most important questions of the 21st century- Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds? (While the actual article seems to have been quietly removed by the Economist, the responses that the Huffington Post published are still pretty amusing).
What’s great about buying from a small business is the opportunity to discuss with the talented crafts person exactly what you would like them to make.
If you do want a piece of wedding jewellery that’s a bit more special (and are willing to pay for it), as fellow blogger Dan Lever has found, Etsy and Folksy are great places to find that dream wedding (or engagement) ring. One of my favourite Etsy sellers Candice has a shop called Firewhite, filled with a tonne of beautiful treasures that you won’t find anywhere on the high street. What’s more, if you buy from a small business you have the opportunity to discuss with the talented crafts person exactly what you would like them to make.
Maddy is a freelance illustrator who lives in Glasgow. She's recently graduated and is working hard to make ends meet. Self-employed? Read Maddy's experiences here.